Little-known editorial cartoons by Dr. Seuss re-emerged online this past week, as critics of President Donald Trump’s order on immigration and refugees drew parallels between the beloved children’s author’s warnings and America's current political climate.
The cartoon most spread across social media depicts a woman reading a story about “Adolf the Wolf” to two children, all three drawn in the author’s unmistakable style.
As seen above, the woman’s shirt reads “America First,” the slogan championed by isolationists ahead of World War II and echoed today by Trump.
Historian Richard H. Minear collected the cartoons of Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel, for his book Dr. Seuss Goes to War. As Minear recounts , Geisel spent two years as chief editorial cartoonist for PM, a New York Newspaper, from 1941 to 1943.
During that time, Geisel’s musings on the war spilled out into more than 400 cartoons that he wrote and illustrated. The works focused on racism and isolationism, criticizing far-right extremism in the U.S. and abroad.
Those sharing Geisel’s 70-year-old cartoons this week said they seemed timelier than ever, whether the pieces warned of nationalism’s ability to harbor fascism and hate …
… or denial of the day’s news …
… or expressed concern with America’s budding allies …
… or bemoaned the dismantling of “U.S. Social Structure.”
Yet Geisel fell victim to the very ignorance he fought: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, some of his cartoons took a bigoted turn with racist portrayals of Japanese and Japanese-American characters.
As Minear told The Atlantic, Geisel may have tried to atone for his published bigotry in later books as Dr. Seuss. He wrote Horton Hears A Who after a trip to Japan, concluding famously that “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”